Friday 26 July 2013

Review: The World's End

Year: 2013
Director: Edgar Wright
Screenplay: Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright
Starring; Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsden, Martin Freeman, Rosamund Pike

Synopsis is here

I loved The World’s End not just because it features my delightful hometown of High Wycombe*. That was an added bonus. No I loved The World’s End because as a Wright/Pegg/Frost fan, I felt the trio’s final “Cornetto Trilogy” entry may not their most quotable. It is however, their most mature in terms of theme. In terms of getting their man children to grow up, they don’t entirely pack away all their toys. But there’s a clear growth in their writing and craft that stands out throughout this sci-fi pub crawl.

I noticed the intent straight away when we are introduced to our lead character Gary King (Pegg) whose development is even more arrested than 2004’s Shaun. No video games or dead end jobs here. There’s not even a girlfriend who’s sick and tired of his shtick. King honestly believes that his life will not be complete until he and his friends finish what they started nearly twenty years ago. A 12 pint pub crawl around their old hometown haunts. His reluctant friends think otherwise but give him the benefit of the doubt. Upon arriving back however, they realise some humanity threatening differences have occurred.

Wrapped in its sci-fi shell is a film that amusingly illustrates where its characters, creators and core audience are now. Approaching or at the wrong side of 30, The World’s End looks at how these three groups are trying to fit into a changing and ever connected world. Both Shaun and Hot Fuzz (2007) also touched upon this with their love for anti-establishment rebels. However the focus here is sharper. Mostly because King and his crew, like their creators are now a little more lived in. The World’s End is their biggest dig at modern age conformity. King’s friends all married and safe, half realised dreams now monotonous facts and figures. Even today’s chain pubs, which all look the same, get tarred with the same brush. The indictment of this is wry. That this condense, overly plugged in world is strangling the character out of us. Not an original thought, but one happily reconstructed with a keen British eye and endearing love for the sci-fi which came before it.

Wright, Pegg and Frost once again reference the living hell out of the film. We see nods to The Day the World Stood Still (1951), The Stepford Wives (1975), They Live (1988), The Omen (1976) and quite possibly Stakeland (2010). Of course the largest reference is Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, 1978), which is observed not just in the visuals, but the subtext. Like all good sci-fi; The Worlds End is all about humanity, and much like the aforementioned Body Snatchers, The Worlds End broadly tackles discrimination with a knowing wink which only these three could provide.

It's a pity that despite this The World's End is a very "white" film considering of its subject matter. I found it particularly interesting how Gary King, despite being quite an unlikable character is treated against the likes of the council estate hero Moses from Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block. Both fight or humanity’s right to be and their own individualism yet it seem that Gary can easily be brushed off as a lovable rouge despite his shady past. Problematic opening sequence aside, it seemed that John Boyega’s Moses has a larger uphill battle to win an audience over despite Gary’s age and history. Whether this has anything to do with class representation, or the general audience reliability to The World’s End actors/writers would be an interesting subject to delve into. Mostly because I believe Boyega sells the drama and complex nature of Moses better than Pegg does with King. I must also add that Shaun of the Dead’s Kate Ashfield still provides strongest female role of the Cornetto Trilogy, with Rosemound Pike having very little to do. In fact; the lack of Jessica Hynes (actress and writing partner on Wright and Pegg’s Spaced) has now become more noticeable. A Daisy Steiner isn’t needed within the film’s framework, but if I saw one, I would appreciate it. These are however mere observations over outright negative criticisms of the material. It’s hard not to get mad at a film which not only has beautifully choreographed fight sequences (the bathroom scene is inspired), but a film that litters its fight scenes with WWE moves. It’s those touches that endear me to the Trio’s work.
With all this talk, I forgot to add that I actually found the film funny. Choc-full of actual gags (please note all you U.S ad libbers), witty one-liners and an amusing main conceit (End of humanity? Of Course we Brits would be at the pub!) , the film does more to satirise male fears in one scene than all three Hangover movies. I know of one or friends who are quite possibly sick of the sight of Pegg and Frost. I however, still get a kick out of their antics. Pegg; whose has grown to become a star in his own right, often feels a little naked without Frost and it was warming to see the two together with none of the chemistry lost.  
For me; The World’s End is quite simply high calibre action sci-fi with fluid action set pieces and trademark word play that made Pegg and Frost a household name to so many. I doubt this will do anything to turn non fans but those who have been with the trio since spaced should enjoy the final trip into the blood and Ice Cream world.